The Andrus Family Fund Announces New Director, Manuela Arciniegas

ManuelaThe Andrus Family Fund (AFF) announced today that Manuela Arciniegas has been appointed director, after serving as interim director since January 2019. In her new role as director, Manuela is poised to lead AFF and champion its bold vision as the Fund approaches its 20th anniversary in 2020.

“I am excited to help strengthen AFF and Surdna’s work to more deeply center the needs of vulnerable youth in the child welfare and youth justice systems,” said Manuela. “We will continue to lean in courageously and partner with nonprofit organizations, public-sector leaders and philanthropy to fundamentally transform the way our society generally views and treats marginalized youth and communities. Our young people are innovative and brilliant, and AFF continues to engage in strategic action to promote racial equity and empowered leadership. I am happy to bring my long-standing career in youth development, education and community organizing to continue to push our society toward transformative change.”

Since 2014, Manuela has served the Andrus Family Fund in a variety of capacities. Prior to her role as interim director, she was the Fund’s program officer, launching the capacity-building initiative S.O.A.R. (Strengthening Organizations, Amplifying Resilience) and co-managing a $4 million national portfolio of more than 50 grantee partners. She was also one of the key organizers of Education Anew: Shifting Justice 2018, AFF’s co-hosted biennial convening that brings together education and youth justice organizers, advocates and funders.

“The Andrus Family Fund was launched almost 20 years ago as a next-gen ‘training’ program. Today, thanks to the vision and leadership of individuals like Manuela, AFF is a leading national social justice funder with a deep commitment to and skill in engaging partners and communities,” said Kelly Nowlin, member of the Surdna Foundation Board of Directors and Chair of the Andrus Family Philanthropy Program. “I am so excited for our family to have Manuela as AFF’s next director. She embodies the values of humility and authenticity that we so deeply care about and will continue to evolve and strengthen the important work AFF is doing in foster care and juvenile justice.”

“In her nine months as interim director, Manuela has demonstrated a keen ability to effectively combine bold, new ideas with a deep commitment to social justice values and the Andrus family legacy that guides the Andrus Family Fund,” said Lindsey Griffith, chair of the Andrus Family Fund Board. “The board looks forward to all the Fund will accomplish guided by Manuela’s strong leadership and vision.”

During her tenure as a community outreach fellow for the Lincoln Center, Manuela recruited and maintained partnerships with 12 large New York City-based nonprofits serving African-American and Latinx constituents, helping advance racial equity within the larger Lincoln Center campus. In this capacity, Manuela also designed and led the formation of a Student Advisory Council comprising 18 graduate students who informed the Lincoln Center’s public programs for youth. Immediately following the fellowship at Lincoln Center, she was selected as a New York Council on the Humanities Fellow for her activist programs addressing racism within Dominican communities.

Manuela fueled her passion for using Afro-Caribbean music as a tool for resistance as the Director of Education at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, where she curated programs for public access television, developed a youth and community internship and volunteer program and led more than 100 teaching artists to deliver education in NYC’s public schools and community organizations. Her education and leadership continued as she served as an adjunct professor at John Jay College for Criminal Justice.

“I look forward to continuing to partner with Manuela to grow the shared impact of the Surdna Foundation and Andrus Family Fund to achieve just and sustainable change in the United States,” said Don Chen, president of the Surdna Foundation. “Her committed service, deep expertise, knowledge and passion have been indispensable in leading the Andrus Family Fund during this challenging time for vulnerable youth.”

Manuela serves on several philanthropic boards and advisory committees, including the national Funders for Justice/Neighborhood Funders Group, Youth First! State Advocacy Fund, the Youth Engagement Fund, Communities for Just Schools Fund, The Funder’s Collaborative on Youth Organizing, the New York Women’s Foundation Fund for Women and Girls of Color, Healing in Resistance and others. She is a practitioner of traditional Afro-Caribbean cultural and healing practices and brings this approach to her leadership.

Manuela graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in government from Harvard University, where she studied the intersections among democracy, social movements, gender and poverty. She is currently conducting dissertation research for her doctorate at the CUNY Graduate Center, building understanding about the role that culture and Afro-Caribbean folk religious practices play in galvanizing the power of communities of people of color.

Succeeding Together: Meet Niara, AFF’s Summer Intern

Niara Nelson joins the AFF staff as this year’s summer intern. Learn more about her below.

Tell us about yourself.

I am a 21-year-old from Brooklyn, NY and a rising junior transferring to Columbia University this fall. My interest lies in multicultural psychology. I love to hear about the human experience in different forms and why people behave the way they do in specific contexts. This is my first time learning about philanthropy and social change in such a unique capacity. In the past, I have worked with food justice on an urban farm. I have also benefited from direct service organizations such as Prep for Prep, and a capacity building organization, Ladders for Leaders. Ladders for Leaders is a component of the Summer Youth Employment Program which is run by the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development. 

What do you like most about your internship at AFF?

I am fascinated to see another side of social justice and social change and I am curious how this knowledge will evolve throughout the summer. I am excited to learn more about the amazing work AFF’s community of grantees has accomplished and how this work has impacted many people’s day-to-day lives. I know that whether it is direct service, advocacy, community organizing or capacity building, together you are all making incredible strides towards that just and sustainable change we all believe in. 

I appreciate working in service of AFF’s mission as well as their grantee partners’ because I know, from experience, that changing one person’s perspective can change an entire community’s reality. AFF and their grantee partners know the importance of knowledge and resources and share this knowledge. I love that there is an emphasis on learning and collaboration rather than individualism, so that we can all succeed together. I have never been so welcomed and supported from the start in a new environment. I imagine this translates into the grantmaking process as well. 

How do you think this internship will impact your future?

I hope I can learn how to be involved in social justice in my own life. I have already begun to explore the plethora of resources and organizations in Brooklyn. I can be hesitant in new situations, but I hope to gain the confidence to find the different communities I may need that will allow me to grow into myself. I also want to find the communities that I can uplift with the knowledge I have gained through my experiences. I hope to learn to be a kind, creative and understanding leader. 

Welcome to the team Niara!

An Unprecedented Opportunity

An Unprecedented Opportunity: Organizing Next Generation Donors and Trustees to Practice Effective Change Philanthropy

The Surdna Foundation and Andrus Family Fund recently commissioned a report to better understand the ecosystem of next generation philanthropic engagement. “An Unprecedented Opportunity” focuses on the interest in social justice philanthropy and alternative models to engage the next generation of donors in philanthropy. While Surdna and AFF are leaders in engaging the next generation of philanthropists, the report is meant to supplement decades of family engagement and to better understand the evolving field at this critical juncture in American philanthropic history. Flip through the whole report below.

New Year Announcements

“When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” – Maya Angelou

Happy New Year! It is with great pleasure that we usher in yet another year of partnership as we seek to improve the lives of vulnerable young people impacted by the youth justice and foster care system. This new year is a gift of time—more time to deepen our partnerships, to better support each other, and to see each other through change and growth. So, what will we do with this time?

Maya Angelou’s quote above acknowledges our interdependence and the importance of passing on knowledge, leadership and opportunity. As of Monday, January 7th, 2019, after 4 years of service with the Andrus Family Fund, I entered a time to serve as its Interim Director. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working closely with many of you throughout these years, and I look forward to getting to know more closely those of you in our policy and direct service portfolios.

Earlier this month we bid farewell to our beloved outgoing Executive Director Leticia Peguero, who recently took the helm as Vice President of Programs at the Nathan Cummings Foundation. Leticia was the embodiment of learning and teaching, getting and giving.

Rest assured that AFF is stable and grounded, well-prepared for the changes that lie ahead yet still holding close our commitment to our core values of deep engagement, just opportunity, connected innovation, and sustained impact. Your work on the ground is a constant example of how to embody this cyclical nature of change, growth, and commitment. We continue to stand by you as you seek to uplift youth who our society has often forgotten.

Jennifer Kaizer, our senior program associate, and I are excited about the journey ahead.

In committed service,

Manuela Arciniegas
Interim Director

Manuela Arciniegas

A Bittersweet Departure

I write today with bittersweet news. After an incredible almost six years at the Andrus Family Fund, I have decided that it is time for the next leg of my journey. I have accepted a position at the Nathan Cummings Foundation and look forward to becoming their Vice President of Programs in the new year.  This was an incredibly difficult decision for me to make, as many of you know, I work with an incredible team here at AFF and am incredibly proud of the work that we have been able to accomplish together.

Partnering with many of you over my time here has been a gift. It has allowed me to make real a social justice philanthropic practice that I have always believed was possible. I have been humbled by your work, your courage and your dedication and it has been an honor and a pleasure to support your work. While we have made mistakes along the way, I hope that you know that my deepest intention has been to create an organization that allows you to do your best work for all our young people. I hope you could see that my intention has been to #ElevateTheGenius like we said at Education Anew: Shifting Justice. It has been a great pleasure to elevate your voice on our blog, our podcast and simply in our interactions.

Part of AFF’s work has been to engage the next generation of philanthropists in a vision of social justice that is led by and for those most impacted. I hope that during my tenure, we have at least begun this conversation on our staff, board and with many of you. I believe that we do this work not for us but for all that is yet to come. We sow the seeds, for as our Native family reminds us, we work for seven generations in the future. I believe that this vision of creating a more just philanthropic practice has allowed AFF to sow a few seeds.

I will be forever grateful for the way that many of you welcomed me into this role six years ago, and I do look forward to continuing our work together as I step into my new role at the Nathan Cummings Foundation. As many have guessed, this work is personal for me. I look forward to continuing to build a reflective philanthropic practice that centers the voice and the untold brilliance of our communities.

I will be at AFF through the end of this year.

In deepest gratitude,

Leticia Peguero, Executive Director, Andrus Family Fund

Education Anew: Shifting Justice 2018 Convenes Education and Youth Justice Organizers, Advocates and Funders in San Juan, Puerto Rico One Year After Hurricane Maria

Education Anew: Shifting Justice 2018 (EASJ2018) is a unique education and youth justice convening co-hosted by Andrus Family Fund (AFF) and the Communities for Just Schools Fund (CJSF) that will elevate the collective genius of organizers, advocates and youth who have dedicated their lives to creating safe and supportive schools, closing youth jails and prisons, ending the criminalization of and violence against young people of color, and transforming education and youth justice systems. The 2018 convening will be held at La Concha Resort in San Juan, Puerto Rico October 11-14.

EASJ2018 offers a unique opportunity to bring these diverse voices together in one space to create impactful, contextual change and align strategies to address structural racism and inequality in schools, youth systems, and communities. Additionally, EASJ2018 will explore the ways in which communities are building collective power to end the criminalization of youth of color and advance new models of transformative justice that seek to abolish cages and prisons.  

Leading up to EASJ2018, participating organizations sought to create space for solidarity-building and education around the global fight against disaster capitalism and colonialism in Puerto Rico and beyond. On August 11, 2018, youth justice organizers from the continental United States joined organizers and cultural workers from Puerto Rico and the diaspora in New Orleans to unpack the economic and social realities of Puerto Rico pre- and post-Maria. EASJ2018 will give participants another opportunity to collaborate, build connections and engage in shared movement-building strategies.

“EASJ2018 gives attendees a chance to step away from the incredible work they are doing every day in their communities and on the state level, and share it with others in this space,” said Jaime Koppel, Deputy Director for Strategic Partnerships, Communities for Just Schools Fund.

In an effort to amplify the growing movement against privatized education in Puerto Rico, EASJ2018 will lift up the work of a select group of Puerto Rico-based educator organizers, who are mobilizing to save public schools in the midst of a massive wave of school closures and resisting efforts to privatize public education on the island. EASJ2018 programming will address topics such as Puerto Rican colonialism and resistance, police-free schools, investing in public education and organizing youth-led movements.

Additionally, EASJ2018 will provide an opportunity for cultural exchange and self-care among attendees through workshops and community learning tours.

“This is a movement that highlights the building of power among those who have systematically been denied power and celebrates the genius of those at the center of the struggle,” adds Koppel.  

Why Puerto Rico

The historical disinvestment in Puerto Rico is structural and historical in nature after more than a century of colonial status. Therefore, the inequities in Puerto Rico are not a result of Hurricane Maria but were exacerbated by it. The day before the storm:

  • 6 in 10 children in Puerto Rico were living in poverty.
  • Puerto Rico had a poverty rate that was almost double the poorest state in the United States.
  • The median family income in Puerto Rico was $20,438, which is half of the lowest median income in the poorest state of the U.S.   


“The fact that EASJ2018 is taking place in Puerto Rico one year after Hurricane Maria is very intentional. We know that solutions to youth justice and education in Puerto Rico are found from within. Those closest to the problems have the best ideas on how to solve them. So we are entering the communities of Puerto Rico with the understanding that we know nothing and we are here to learn everything. And, that we can bring resources and learnings from different parts of the United States to create fertile ground for real, collaborative work,” said Leticia Peguero, Executive Director, Andrus Family Fund.

EASJ2018 will provide attendees with an extraordinary opportunity to learn about the struggles for racial justice, education, and youth justice in Puerto Rico. EASJ2018 will feature speakers, organizers, healers and artists from Puerto Rico as well as community learning tours, where attendees will experience the work of local organizations first hand.

“The time is now to lift the veil of invisibility and work together with our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters to enact inclusive, sustainable change,” Peguero adds.

About Education Anew: Shifting Justice (EASJ)

Co-hosted by Andrus Family Fund and Communities for Just Schools Fund, EASJ is an entirely female-led biennial convening that bridges education and youth justice organizers, advocates and funders. The 2018 convening will be held at La Concha Resort in San Juan, Puerto Rico October 11-14 and will include visits to a number of community organizations working in the area. Learn more about Education Anew: Shifting Justice 2018 at http:///

For media inquiries, contact Mary Tveit, or 404-432-5067

The Surdna Foundation and Andrus Family Fund Pledge $800,000 to Next-Generation Social Justice Philanthropy

21 national organizations awarded grants, advancing the Foundation’s commitment to social justice values as part of its Centennial grantmaking.

The Surdna Foundation, in partnership with the Andrus Family Fund, announced today an $800,000 commitment to help build the field of next-generation social justice philanthropy. The Foundation, as part of its Centennial grantmaking initiatives, will build the field by sparking a dialogue about philanthropy centered on race, privilege, equity and social justice and by increasing the number of next-generation philanthropists who are engaged in social justice work.

Through the initiative, the Surdna Foundation and Andrus Family Fund are providing resources for family foundations, community foundations and donor-advised funders to pursue next-generation social justice philanthropy. Next-generation social justice philanthropy engages younger generations of philanthropists—whether they are high net worth individuals or trustees of family foundations—to focus their philanthropic efforts on social justice initiatives.

Surdna’s pledge reflects the Foundation’s commitment to its social justice values. The Andrus Family Fund’s role reflects the Fund’s commitment to engaging family members in philanthropy focused on social justice.

“Recognizing the entrenched wealth and racial inequities that exist across the United States today, foundations and donors want to engage future generations of philanthropists around philanthropic models centered on social justice, race and equity — but many lack the resources and relationships to do so,” explains Leticia Peguero, Executive Director of The Andrus Family Fund and Andrus Family Philanthropy Program. “We hope this initiative will usher in a new era of family philanthropy and next-generation engagement—one that engages the next generation of philanthropists to address systemic inequity through social justice philanthropy.”

A key aspect of the commitment is building the field of next-generation social justice philanthropy by promoting best practices, furthering dialogue and building networks to connect and share resources among philanthropists and foundations seeking to address racial inequity and social justice. To achieve these goals, the Foundation will work with existing philanthropic resource organizations to share learnings publicly via reports, blog posts and social media, and collaborate with next-generation philanthropy groups on presentations, events and publications. Grants are listed below with additional information about the specific work being funded.

  • 21/64 – To support 21/64’s engagement of next-generation donors, family foundation trustees, and earners to create a day and half long retreat/training for 10-15 individuals who are next-gen donors interested in social change.
  • Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) – To support ABFE’s work to build a network of Black Next Gen High Net Worth individuals and/or families to support Black-led social justice organizations and initiatives.
  • Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice – To support the Funding Queerly Giving Circle, young donors partnering with Astraea to mobilize resources for grassroots LGBTQI groups.
  • Bread and Roses Community Fund – To support Bread & Roses’ multiple Giving Projects, which bring together a cross-class, cross-race, intergenerational group of people who share a vision for social justice and organize resources to support movements for social change.
  • Chinook Fund – To support the Chinook Fund’s ability to continue engaging next-generation donors across Colorado.
  • Class Action Network – To support Class Action Network’s work to inspire its members to end classism and extreme inequality by providing change-makers with tools, training and inspiration to raise awareness, shift cultural beliefs about social class, build cross-class solidarity, and transform institutions and systems.
  • Crossroads Fund – To support the Giving Project at Crossroads Fund, which combines community building among next-generation donors with political education, fundraising, and grantmaking for the benefit of groups organizing for racial, social, and economic justice in Chicago.
  • Exponent Philanthropy – To support Exponent Philanthropy’s NextGen Fellows Program.
  • Faces of Giving Projects, Inc. – To support Faces of Giving’s second phase of the High Net Worth People of Color Donor Collaborative.
  • Giving Project Learning Community – To support a national collaboration of the Giving Project’s model.
  • Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT) – To support integration of racial and economic justice and resource mobilization frameworks within social justice philanthropy. GIFT will do this by engaging cross-class communities of next-generation family philanthropists, donor organizers and movement leaders.
  • Headwaters Foundation for Justice – To support Headwaters’ Giving Project, which is made up of a cross-class, multiracial group of people who are committed to raising money and supporting organizations creating change in Minnesota.
  • Justice Funders – To support the Justice Funders’ Movement Commons Fundraising and Power Project, which will partner with philanthropic and field practitioners to design interventions that democratize support for people’s identities as givers and social justice actors.
  • Movement Net Lab – To support Movement Net Lab’s “Old Money, New Systems in Philanthropy” retreats.
  • NEXUS Global – To support the NEXUS Working Group Toward Equal Justice, which is an on-ramp for members to leverage their influence on innovative solutions to the Criminal Justice System.
  • North Star Fund – To support North Star Fund’s donor organizing program through a Giving Project model—a cross-class, multiracial learning cohort that introduces participants to philanthropy through an explicit race and class justice lens.
  • Resource Generation – To support Resource Generation’s next-generation family philanthropy leaders, through an annual retreat and training, as well as ongoing leadership development.
  • Social Justice Fund Northwest – To support the Social Justice Fund’s Giving Projects in 2018.
  • Solidaire – To support Solidaire’s development of a “movement philanthropy” curriculum that will launch at its annual retreat in May 2018.
  • Third Wave Fund – To support Third Wave Fund’s work on the development of a cross-class donor leadership pipeline and giving circle model that centers women, queer, and trans people of color under the age of 35.
  • Thousand Currents – To support Thousand Currents’ donor organizing initiative, specifically through funding the March 2018 training institute, and the associated next-generation donor organizing.

More information about Surdna’s Family Philanthropy grantmaking initiative can be found here.

Applying Our Purpose Through Our Board

At AFF, we’re constantly looking for innovative ways to better serve our grantee partners. Our grantmaking process and new capacity-building program are examples of how our unconventional approach is reactive to our grantees’ needs. We know that those closest to the problem are the ones who have the solutions. Additionally, we’ve learned that a truly collaborative process involves giving a diverse group of voices a seat at the decision-making table. That’s why I’m excited to announce that—for the first time in the history of AFF—we have invited members outside of the Andrus family to join our board. I would like to welcome five new board members with a variety of lived experiences who will bring a fresh perspective to our organization; two Andrus family members and three community board members.
2017 cohort
From left to right: Raymond Holgado, C’Ardiss “CC” Gardner Gleser, Meg Belais, Edgar Villanueva, Julia Voorhees

Andrus family members Meg Belais and Julia Voorhees bring years of experience working in public policy and corporate America, respectively. Meg is an environmental policy expert who has worked with the National Park Service in California and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Currently, she’s restoring stream flow in Oregon for The Freshwater Trust in Portland and looking forward to contributing to her family’s legacy.

“I’m excited to connect deeper with the family’s broader work and our legacy. Although the issues AFF tackles are outside of what I do on a daily basis, they are still issues I care very deeply about.” – Meg

Julia’s business background and expertise in data statistics will help us evaluate new opportunities through an analytical lens. She currently leads the Analytics & Optimization team for Under Armour in Baltimore and proud to serve on the Andrus Family Fund board.

“I am excited to learn more about the work that AFF does and join a board with a lot of history.” – Julia

Our new community cohorts include C’Ardiss “CC” Gardner Gleser, Raymond Holgado and Edgar Villanueva. C’Ardiss is deeply involved in her community and believes that the philanthropic sector can play a large role in helping communities connect with each other as conveners of the work. She is currently a Program Officer with the Satterberg Foundation and serves on several other boards. CC holds a Bachelor’s degree in African American Studies from Yale University and an M.Ed. in Education Administration from Seattle University.

“It is an amazing honor and privilege to be part of AFF and its thought leadership in social justice and philanthropy. To be aligned with an organization that is walking the walk is really powerful.” – C’Ardiss

Raymond also brings his philanthropic experience to the table. He currently works at NEO Philanthropy as a Grants Coordinator. Prior to joining NEO, Raymond worked extensively in the area of education, expanding access to college and vocational pathways for marginalized and underrepresented populations—which is the focus of many of our grantee partners. After dropping out of high school, Raymond earned a GED and went on to become the first in his family to graduate college. He subsequently earned a Masters in Social Work from Stony Brook University and is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Social Welfare at Yeshiva University. Raymond’s passion for education reform, youth development and dismantling the socioeconomic disparities affecting people of color make him a valuable asset to AFF.

“As someone who is new to philanthropy, I am excited for this learning opportunity. It is a privilege to build on the excellence that AFF has already built.” – Raymond

Edgar is a nationally-recognized expert on social justice philanthropy who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our board. He is currently the Vice President of Programs and Advocacy at the Schott Foundation where he leads a team to support education justice movements. Edgar is also an instructor with The Grantmaking School at the Johnson Center at Grand Valley State University and is the author of a forthcoming book on philanthropic leadership. He has held leadership roles on various boards and advisory committees in the philanthropic sector including: The Executives’ Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Men of Color (an AFF grantee partner), Native Americans in Philanthropy and Fund the People.

“Being the only Native American in the nation on a private board is a big deal for my community. I think this change will have a ripple effect on other foundations to really be democratic and inclusive, so I am proud to be part of a board that is an example of what a board should be.” – Edgar

I am excited about this new chapter of the Andrus Family fund and look forward to working with new and existing board members, as well as the amazing AFF team, to advance our mission. As we continue to evolve as a funder, AFF will inevitably find new ways to serve our grantee partners. For now, I will enjoy working with this talented group of people to implement a sustainable impact for future generations.
AFF board
The Andrus Family Fund board with Executive Director, Leticia Peguero at far right

100 Years of Philanthropy and Connection

This year, we are thrilled to celebrate the centennial of the Surdna Foundation, Andrus Family Fund’s parent foundation. AFF’s Program Associate, Jennifer Kaizer, reflects on the history of Surdna and philanthropy and shares her thoughts on the future of social justice and AFF.

One hundred years ago, what did “philanthropy” look like for the Andrus family?

John Emory Andrus established Surdna—“Andrus” spelled backwards—in 1917 to provide grants for those in need. Shortly thereafter, the foundation established the Julia Dyckman Andrus Memorial home, an orphanage in Yonkers, New York, as tribute to John’s wife, Julia, who was orphaned as a child. Over the years, Surdna developed a social justice framework and established a mission to foster sustainable communities across the United States.

As a personality, it seems John Emory Andrus was accessible, humble and forward thinking. His nickname was the “multimillionaire straphanger” because he preferred to commute by train to his office rather than by private car.

How do you think the Surdna Foundation has evolved over time?

Surdna became more institutionalized in the late 1980s when the first full-time Executive Director, Ed Skloot was hired. At this time, the foundation began to build strategic grant-making programs. The Andrus Family Fund was established in January 2000 to engage more than 400 extended family members between the ages of 25 and 45 in public service and organized philanthropy.

Surdna’s approach to grant making, and by extension AFF’s approach, is collaborative and focused on building authentic relationships, which is part of the John Emory Andrus legacy. 

What has been your favorite part of the Centennial celebration?

The dinner celebration on May 8th was my favorite Centennial event because it brought together family members, grantees, colleagues, former and current staff to celebrate John E. Andrus’ legacy. It was such a pleasure to meet extended Andrus family members, some of whom I’ve only seen on mailing lists or corresponded with via email. It was a great portrayal of what Surdna is today.

How do you define social justice and how has that definition changed over time?

Google defines social justice as justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities and privileges within a society. At AFF, we look at social justice through a racial lens because our grantee partners work with youth in juvenile justice, foster care and other disruptive systems— who are mostly youth of color. This disparity is not new. People of color have historically been impacted by unjust systems. Therefore, we must view social justice through a racial lens in the work we we do in order to implement real change.

What excites you most about working in philanthropy?

I love serving as a resource for grantee partners and anyone who comes our way. If a grantee or board member calls, I’m the first person they talk to. I also provide programmatic support.

What do you see for the future of philanthropy in general?

I expect the future of the sector to shift toward better support for grantees in the long term. We are seeing that the current political climate has an impact on grantees’ organizations and the sector will need to respond with both strategic funding and resources for capacity building.

What do you see for the future of AFF?

As AFF’s influence expands, our impact will continue to grow. Our grantee partners will benefit from our ability to connect them to bigger foundations and more resources to help them build capacity and be sustainable. We want to see them continuing the legacy of John Emory Andrus and making a positive impact 20, 40, 50 years from now!

Capacity Building Through Deep Listening: Introducing SOAR

After more than three years of deep listening to our grantee partners, we are excited to launch a new capacity-building program called SOAR: Sustaining Organizations; Augmenting Resilience. Here are some answers about our new program.

What is the goal of SOAR?

SOAR is our new program that aims to strengthen organizational effectiveness and the capacity of AFF’s partners, the field at large and to help inform how philanthropy supports organizations that work on behalf of young people. We hope to help create a significant change in one target area of each organization that will allow them to heighten and sustain their impact.
With SOAR, we are committing to strengthening these organizations for the long haul. We know that it will take time. It is important to not only provide grants or typical philanthropic funding, but also collaboration and support to build resilience.

What is the relationship between philanthropy and capacity building?

The notion that organizations need help with their capacity has been happening for a long time, so investing in capacity building is not new to the philanthropic sector. The way in which we are designing SOAR is what we think is new, nimble and innovative. We took our time on the front end to talk with our grantee partners about their goals and opportunities and challenges for growth. They developed their own assessments and identified goals targeting the issues they want to address. Therefore, SOAR is a grantee-led outcome of deep listening and engagement.  Many other funders dictate from top down or they give money and get out of the way. The typical model misses the opportunity for learning and deep engagement.

What are some common challenges your grantee partners face?

Strategic communication for community organizing is one. Young people are connected to social media but sometimes disconnected from political action. Some of our grantee partners will work within SOAR to train their first communication directors, incorporating technology for social justice change.

Another major issue facing community-organizing groups is burnout. SOAR will address early staff burnout, lack of long-term career engagement in organizing and the limited pool of viable long-term leaders that result from this burnout. Focusing on staff wellness can also extend out into the community. AFF’s grantee partners are exploring the role of trauma-informed wellness and healing practices within community-police relations.

Universal Partnership is training grantees and somatic-based leadership development in order to address questions critical to their campaigns. Questions such as: How can New Orleans police and justice systems develop trauma-informed policies and practices that consider the unique needs of LGBT youth and promote healing? These organizations are clear that they have to address trauma within its members and then in the community in order to transform it from the inside out. This is an emerging ask from the field of organizing.

Another opportunity for some grantee partners is program design and evaluation. A few of our grantee partners are doing work in their local communities that can have a national impact. One of them works with young people in the foster care system to support them in graduating from college. SOAR will help them evaluate which programs can be replicated to support foster youth nationwide.

Other challenges we’re addressing through SOAR are strategic financial planning and human resource capabilities, both of which have huge impacts on the life and fiscal health of an organization and their employees

Finally, we are working closely with three grantee partners to build second tier leadership, like assistant directors. Many organizations fold when the first executive director leaves. We want to groom the second generation so the transition is seamless.

How does SOAR work?

SOAR is currently a one-year grant to consultants and providers that work with our partners.s we expand, SOAR investment should span a couple of years. In June 2018, providers and grantees will learn what was effective, and how these learnings can be diffused with the field at large to further strengthen organizations serving vulnerable youth.

How does SOAR allow AFF to better fulfill its mission?

AFF’s mission seeks to foster just and sustainable change in the United States. We do this by supporting organizations that advance social justice and improve outcomes for vulnerable youth. AFF is committed to helping grow the effectiveness and impact of organizations serving vulnerable youth because they are often the only sources of support system-impacted youth have. Through SOAR, AFF is better positioned to deepening our learning and responding to our grantees’ needs. Engaging in close partnerships help solve the problems organizations face as they tackle changing systems, laws and improving the lived experiences of youth. This intimate partnership is more likely to contribute to new thinking and approaches that can have a rippling effect in the field of philanthropy and social justice. We look forward to working with our funder colleagues in continuing the conversation of engaging deeply with our partners to help build their capacity.

New Partners in Change

“Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This is a quote that the Andrus Family Fund team repeats and tries to embody often. We are privileged to travel the country and meet leaders, organizations and young people that teach and remind us every day the causes that we must not overlook.

As you may remember over the past two years the Andrus Family Fund has undergone a strategic assessment which led us to a new vision and mission. For the first time in over a decade we had an open call for unsolicited letters of inquiry this past February. Our team has had a very busy few months. We received an overwhelming response of amazing and diverse work from across the country—including Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Letters of inquiry from big and small organizations that spanned large states, small counties, dense cities and sparsely populated rural areas came through our portal. It made our decisions hard ones, which we approached with care and fairness.

This first round of grants was the final step in solidifying our new approach. We are looking for partners that are bold and innovative, partners that share our organizational values and are willing to question the status-quo. And most importantly, we are looking for partners that believe that those most impacted by unjust histories and policies should be at the center of the work and of the solutions.

So, we are excited to partner with organizations as diverse as the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, California to help them advocate for laws that reduce solitary confinement for young people and to spread some of the great strides that California has made to other states and with the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights in New Orleans for their Fairness First Project which helps them leverage the success of their direct service work as a driver for systems level reform in one of the most incarcerated states in the country. We continue to learn from our new partnership with JustLeadershipUSA as they put the voices of those formerly incarcerated at the center of criminal justice reform. And locally here in New York City, we are partnering with innovative voices like Common Justice, a Vera Institute of Justice demonstration project which works in collaboration with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office in an effort to provide direct services centered around young people accused of felonies.

These are just a few of our new partners. Please visit our grantees page to see them all.  As we continue to learn and grow as a grant maker we will be highlighting many of their voices right here on our blog. Please be sure to read, post, like and share. Through community and partnership can we realize the change we seek.

A Time For Change

I’m excited to announce a new chapter in the history of the Andrus Family Fund. As Mother Teresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”  At the Andrus Family Fund we do not believe that we alone can make any substantial change – change happens in partnership and in community. I hope that with our new focus we will begin to help create many ripples in the areas we care about so that real change can take root.

We have a fresh look and a new focus. Why the change? As an organization, we’ve evolved to better achieve our mission. We’re fostering potential and unlocking promise for youth and young adults and the organizations that serve them. We want to invest in partnerships with young people, organizations and systems that help create lifelong personal, family and community connections which lead to successful and productive adulthoods. We want to support organizations whose work directly connects youth to the people and services they need to become self-sustaining and resilient. We will work closely with all of our grantees to advance and advocate for programs and policies that are proven to create more equitable systems. We will continue to support organizations that utilize community organizing as a tool to remove barriers and create social change.

But it’s not about us. It’s about who we serve – our grantees. It’s about the work they do and the lives they impact. As you peruse our updated site, I hope this will be evident. Each and every page features youth from our grantee partners, so we never forget what’s at stake. We believe that every young person deserves more than one chance at a successful life.

Part of our evolution is taking our cause to communities near and far. Being more vocal about the issues that make young people vulnerable is the first place to start. That’s why we’re embracing social media, using photos and videos to put a face to the important work our grantees do every day. Please follow us and join the movement that puts our youth and young adults at the center of change!

The future is full of possibility. I’m proud of what AFF has achieved over the past 14 years, and I’m really looking forward to our progression. There’s lots of work to be done and we’re honored to be at the forefront of change.